One man followed his heart to Ecuador and has started a business he hopes will bring other Americans to the country.
Five years ago, Jason Murphy was living the good life in Huntington Beach, a surf city in sunny Southern California.
He had a solid job with an airplane-interiors manufacturing company, a good group of friends and a hip, lively city to explore.
But Murphy, 28, was having a hard time adjusting to life on the West Coast. It was a different lifestyle than the one he had known back East, or at college in Arizona. There were more parties, more consumerism, more superficiality.
So Murphy was wary when his friends asked him to come to party one night in February 2003. Grudgingly, he came along, announcing that he only planned to stay for an hour or so.
Fate had other plans.
A group of young Ecuadorian exchange students, just weeks into their semester-long stay in the United States, were also at the party. Murphy and his friends got to talking with them and found them to be “the greatest, most genuine people,” he recalls.
Tania Veloz, then a hospitality student at the Catholic University of Ecuador, caught Murphy’s eye.
Needless to say, Murphy never made the quick party escape he had planned. The pair talked “for hours,” said Murphy, and a friendship was born.
A whirlwind romance
Murphy and Veloz called each other often and soon began dating.
They spent as much time together as they could before Veloz’s visa expired and she returned home in July. Murphy flew to Ecuador several times throughout the summer, to visit his novia — girlfriend — and her family.
Early that fall, Murphy and Veloz started to think seriously about getting married. Murphy planned to “pop the question” to Veloz, then bring her back to the states on a fiancée’s visa.
But a promising job offer put a chink in that plan. Murphy was asked to relocate to Montreal, Quebec, where a fiancée visa would not work. The only way Veloz could come to Canada with Murphy was if the pair were already married. So Murphy flew to Santo Domingo, Ecuador, in September 2003 to ask Veloz’s father for his daughter’s hand in marriage, returned to California, then flew back to Veloz’s hometown a few weekends later for a civil wedding ceremony.
The couple had become man and wife, just eight months after they first met — at a party Murphy hadn’t wanted to attend.
A multicultural family
Murphy and Veloz began their life together in Canada, working and saving their money with the goal of eventually starting some sort of business in Ecuador.
Each has learned the other’s language — Veloz worked on her English during her semester abroad, and Murphy worked on his Spanish by talking with members of Veloz’s family.
Veloz’s aunts and cousins spoke such rapid-fire Spanish, however, that Murphy said he sometimes couldn’t tell whether they were talking about real people or the characters on one of their favorite soap operas, or telenovelas.
The pair moved to Veloz’s hometown of Santo Domingo in September 2006, but they still visit Murphy’s hometown of Farmington, N.Y., several times a year. Murphy and Veloz say they feel at home in both countries. Coming back to New York, said Murphy, is like putting on a favorite pair of jeans that had been hiding in the back of the closet, but still fits.
“I’m not a foreigner over there, and I’m not a foreigner here,” he said.
“When I proposed to Tania’s father, I told him, ‘My plan is not to take Tania to the U.S., have her assimilate and leave her culture behind,’” said Murphy. “She’s going to become part of my culture, and I’m going to become part of her culture.”
They plan to raise children one day in the same manner — bilingual, with one foot in North America, one in South.
A multicultural business
For Murphy, leaving his English-speaking comfort zone to move to Ecuador was a “liberating experience.” He fell in love with the country almost as quickly as he had fallen for Veloz.
In addition to the beauty of the language, the openness and generosity of the Ecuadorian people and the tastiness of their cuisine, Murphy was in awe of Ecuador’s varied scenery.
“Ecuador is the size of Nevada and has just about 13 million people, but it is one of the most biodiverse places in the world — with almost every single type of ecosystem, from glaciers to volcanoes,” he said.
Combining his pride in Ecuador with his business experience and economics knowledge, Murphy joined Veloz and four other partners in July 2007 in starting a company called the Ecuador Development Group. The company, which has a Web site at www.pro-Ecuador.com, offers tips, informational links and travel and real estate connections, to Americans and others who want to know Ecuador on a deeper level than the average tourist. Offerings include photo tours, in-country expeditions and information about condos and other housing purchases.
So far, said Murphy, the response to the site has been “overwhelming.”
The business and Web site make people feel more comfortable making the trip, as though they already have friends waiting for them in Ecuador, Murphy said.
Contact Daily Messenger writer Hilary Smith at (585) 394-0770, Ext. 343 or at firstname.lastname@example.org
Upcoming trip to Ecuador
Adventure photographer Sanford Morris of Canandaigua, N.Y., is leading an eco-photo tour of Ecuador this fall. His company, Safari Party Adventures, is just one of many to partner with Jason Murphy’s Web business. Here are the trip details:
What: A fully escorted photo exploration tour through Ecuador; including round-trip airfare from Rochester, N.Y., to Quito, all in-country transportation, meals and lodging.
When: Aug. 9 to Aug. 20, 2008, 12 days, with 10 full days in Ecuador.
Size: The tour group will be limited to 12 people.
Cost: $3,245 per person. A $300 deposit is required to hold a spot.
Contact: For more information, call Morris at (585) 944-1902 or e-mail email@example.com